Thursday, August 08, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Brandon Rosenthal rated the first practice of his 11th season as head coach of the Lipscomb Lady Bisons volleyball team as possibly the best ever.
Rosenthal welcomed five new players Thursday morning. He is also is working with two new assistant coaches – Ann Armes and Billy Ebel.
All 15 players have been on campus since July 1 attending summer school. Rosenthal thinks spending that time together made the first day of practice less stressful for all concerned.
“You could tell that those five weeks together really paid off,” Rosenthal said. “It was different than any other start of the season that we have ever had because the familiarity with each other was so great.
“We felt like we could step our game up in the first practice because, quite honestly, they were ready for it. The intensity was higher than I have ever seen it.”
Caitlin “Dot” Dotson, Claire Peterson and Lauren Ford are serving as the team captains for 2013. One area that impressed Rosenthal was the way the players took control of what was being done on the court.
“We had players directing other players on what they needed to do on each play and telling each other how to get better,” Rosenthal said. “As a coach that is what I want. I want to be able to step back and listen and watch and interject every once in a while.”
Rosenthal anticipated that his veteran players would make an effort to become more vocal as leaders on the court.
“I thought that our leadership really came into play around February and then continued to get stronger through the spring,” Rosenthal said. “The way everybody conducted themselves in practice was a great indication of what is coming.”
Dotson has made a giant step forward to lead the team as a senior. Rosenthal watched her progress in that area during the spring so he is not surprised with what he is seeing from her.
“Dot has really taken the reins,” Rosenthal said. “Dot has really evolved into the player and the leader that I initially saw. Dot has been, and will always be, a confident person.
“Since February Dot has taken that confidence and found her voice. I hate to use the word blossom because I am not sure it is a strong enough word. It has been like adding fire to gunpowder. She has exploded in a great way that will be tremendous for our program. It will give her a better opportunity of leaving the legacy she wants to leave.”
There is parity among the players and that also helped to contribute to the intensity on the first day.
“We are a lot deeper than we ever have been,” Rosenthal said. “Competition at each position is that much higher.”
The newcomers who are challenging for positions are freshmen Kayla Ostrom, Kaitlyn Teeter, Maggie Allen and Katie Bradley along with Bri McCombs, a sophomore transfer from Middle Tennessee. If first impressions are truly lasting, these five have already made their mark.
“There is a lot that goes into the way we practice and the speed and the flow,” Rosenthal said. “They are definitely getting used to it. I thought they did a nice job for the first day.
“I was really impressed with how well they take direction. They were willing to listen and jump in at the appropriate time. They definitely held their own.”
In preparation for the first day of practice Rosenthal, Ebel and Armes held a three-hour “coaches” practice.
“It was just the three of us in an open gym,” Rosenthal said. “We went through drills, talked about the language we use, what we call things and even how we want to hit balls.”
The Lady Bisons ended a streak of three straight NCAA trips last season falling in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Rosenthal is wasting no time addressing needed areas of improvement.
“After one practice I think our defensive pressure is tremendous,” Rosenthal said. “We are going to frustrate teams with that.
“We have to be able to score consistently. You can’t play defense like we do and not score off of that.”
Rosenthal saw his team improve its blocking last season, but he stresses the need to take it to another level.
“We made this huge push in the spring to be better at it and to score more that way,” Rosenthal said. “We have never put this much of an emphasis on blocking. We have got to see it through.”
Rosenthal also wants to see his team be more diligent in not allowing leads to evaporate late in a match.
“We have to be able to score even in tough situations,” Rosenthal said. “There were too many times last year when we extended rallies, which is great, but we didn’t score off of those rallies.
“When you have somebody down you have to keep them down. We did a great job of getting them down, but then we would let them back up. I don’t see that happening this year.”